A quick introduction to Amnesty’s Annual Report 2014/2015

Today, Amnesty International released its Annual Report for 2014/2015.

This is a quick introduction to some of what it says:

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  • The report describes the human rights situation in 160 countries.
  • The report concludes that 2014 was a disastrous and devastating year for people living in war and conflict.

“We must hope that, looking backward to 2014 in the years to come, what we lived through will be seen as an ultimate low point from which we rose up and created a better future.” – Salil Shetty

  • Armed groups attacked civilians in over 35 countries without the international community intervening. In addition, several states have attacked its civilian population.
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War crimes or other violations of the “laws of war” were carried out in at least 18 countries.

  • Amnesty asks the permanent members of the UN Security Council to refrain from veto in individual cases.
    • A suggestion as to what can be done to reverse the trend happening in 2014.
    • Amnesty suggests that the permanent states should waive their right of veto when faced with genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity. If they do this, it can be possible to intervene in the affected countries.
    • 40 governments now support the proposal.

“Government leaders have justified horrific human rights violations by talking of the need to keep the country “safe”. In reality, the opposite is the case.” – Salil Shetty

  • One of the countries emphasised in the report is Syria, where millions are affected by the civil war that has ravaged the country for the past four years.
    • The international community has more or less been watching Syria evolve into a total disaster; the biggest refugee disaster since World War II.
    • The UN has been paralysed in that Russia and China have refused the Security Council to do simple things like imposing sanctions or arms embargo.
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Refugees and migrants were at particular risk during 2014. More than 3,400 people are believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach Europe. Of the 4 million refugees who have fled the conflict in Syria, 95% were being hosted in neighbouring countries.

  • Restrict the use of explosive weapons in populated areas
    • A practical step to protect civilians in conflict is to further restrict the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
    • This would have saved many lives in Ukraine, where pro-Kyiv forces and Russian-backed separatists targeted civilian neighbourhoods.
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82% (131 out of 160) of countries tortured or otherwise ill-treated people.82% (131 out of 160) of countries tortured or otherwise ill-treated people.

  • Mexico: the problem of disappearances
    • In September 2014, 42 students disappeared – making it a tragic addition to the more than 22,000 people who have gone missing or disappeared in Mexico since 2006.
    • Most are believed to have been abducted by criminal gangs, but many are reported to have been subjected to enforced disappearance by the police and the military.
  • Protests = courage
    • In the “umbrella movement” in Hong Kong, tens of thousands exercised their basic rights to freedoms of expression and assembly when they defied official threats and faced down excessive and arbitrary use of force by the police.
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More than a third of governments (62 out of 160) locked up prisoners of conscience – people who were simply exercising their rights and freedoms.

Success stories of 2014

  • Arms Trade Treaty
    • On 24 December, the international Arms Trade Treaty came into force.
    • The treaty prohibits the sale of weapons to those who may use them to commit atrocities.
    • Amnesty and others had campaigned for the treaty for 20 years – it shows that one should never give up.
  • On 23 January, the Moroccan parliament voted unanimously to amend a law that blocked the prosecution and punishment of any person who, accused of statutory rape, married the victim.

This was a short introduction to a few things the Report says. Read the full report here: “The State of the World’s Human Rights” 

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